Sneak Peek of Girlfriend Material
Let the release week festivities commence! Girlfriend Material went all the way to the top FIVE in the lesbian romance and lesbian fiction charts, as well as the top TWENTY in bisexual romance! I'm beyond thrilled to see so many readers enjoying the story already.
If you haven't grabbed a copy yet, then today's release week event is for you! I'm sharing the whole first chapter of the book here on the blog so you can get a taste of what you're in for.
Enjoy, and head on over here to download Girlfriend Material when you're done!
Chapter One: Allison
I’m sick of linen.
The thick threads of the off-white fabric slide under my fingertips as I guide the pieces I’ve pinned together towards the whirring needle. The sewing machine hums, picking up speed as I increase the pressure on the foot pedal.
That’s all it’s been for weeks: endless yards of linen stretching out in front of me, pooling over the edges of the work table to form the sack-like swaths of what will eventually become a stunning example of historically accurate medieval clothing.
Hence the linen.
If we weren’t being graded on realism, I’d be going all out with crepe and crushed velvet in drool-worthy jewel tones straight out of a Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia adaptation, but the people of medieval Britain did not have access to such elven luxuries. Instead, I’m stuck working with plain old linen and wool to fulfill the requirements for the final project of my third year in the costume design program at the Montreal College of the Arts: selecting a real-life historical figure and bringing them to life through their clothing with as much accuracy as possible.
I press the tip of my shoe a little harder on the foot pedal, and the needle becomes a glinting silver blur. I’ve been tinkering with this under-dress all week, and as soon it’s done, I’ll be able to move on to the hand embroidery pattern I’ve been dreaming up.
For what is essentially just a flowy tube with some simple sleeves stuck on, the under-dress has been giving me a whole lot of trouble. I ease off the pedal and slow down enough to check I haven’t been sewing without any bobbin thread for half a seam like I did yesterday.
Class starts in about fifteen minutes, but I’ve already been in here working with a handful of other early risers for the better part of an hour. The rows of boxy black tables with pairs of sewing machines perched on top are filling up as the rest of the class trickles into the airy white classroom with exposed beams crisscrossing overhead. Bundles of fabric and collections of thread in every colour of the rainbow start to take over the tables as people chat and wait for our instructor.
All thirty students in our year of the costume design program at MCA have this class together. It’s more of a supervised work session than an actual lecture; we’re supposed to work on our end of term project while getting feedback from our instructor along the way.
I’ve just started on my seam again when a tinkling laugh rings out by the door. My head whips up from staring at my fabric, and my eyes race to track the source of the familiar sound.
As soon as I spot the utter perfection that is Cassidy’s honey blonde hair tumbling down the back of her wool camel coat, the hum of my sewing machine gets hazy and muted, overpowered by the jackhammer thumping of my heart as it leaps into my suddenly parched throat.
Cassidy Kowalski could snatch up the role of an elven princess in her sleep. Her dainty, fairy-like features were made to be crowned by a glittering tiara. Her willowy arms just beg to be draped in gossamer lace. When she tilts her dainty chin up and lets out a trill of that musical laugh, I swear it’s like a gust of glittering fairy dust gets picked up off the floor to swirl around her in her own enchanted little bubble.
I’d give anything to dress her.
I’d also give anything to undress her.
I noticed her all the way back at the costume design orientation lunch over two years ago now. In typical lesbian fashion, I immediately started dreaming up a detailed fantasy life in which I am her adoring girlfriend who strokes her hair while we sip tea and watch TV together as the puppy we just adopted snores softly at our feet.
In even more typical lesbian fashion, I haven’t worked up the guts to say more than five sentences to her since.
I keep feeding the linen through the sewing machine, my hands on autopilot as my eyes stay trained to Cassidy’s face while she and her friend scan the room for a free table. My lungs start refusing to take in air when her friend points at the table right across the aisle from mine. The two of them head over, Cassidy swinging a leather messenger bag off her shoulder to settle it on the ground beside her chair.
My neck twists to keep her in sight, like she’s a magnet that might just pull me off my chair and into the few feet of tiled floor between her seat and mine. She sits down, her dainty fingers working at the buttons of her coat, and I finally manage to draw in a shallow breath as she pulls the coat open to reveal a pale pink chiffon blouse with a boat neck and gathered sleeves.
God, I love chiffon.
She leans forward to start tugging the coat sleeves down her arms, and that’s when she spots me staring at her like a creepy goblin lurking in the woods.
At least, that’s what I imagine I look like giving her a slack-jawed stare I try to morph into some semblance of a casual smile. My entire face and neck flare with a burning heat I know must already be turning my skin a splotchy red.
One of the many drawbacks of being an exceptionally pale ginger: I do not have a cute blush.
Cassidy’s forehead creases with confusion for a moment as she tries to work out exactly what it is I’m doing with my face. I force the corners of my mouth up even higher, but I can’t stop my eyes from getting wide with panic as my brain slams the ‘social disaster alert’ button over and over again.
My goblin grin at least seems to come across as a smile to Cassidy; she tucks a stray lock of golden hair behind her ear as she lifts her other hand in a little wave.
Oh sweet Jesus, she spoke to me.
My heart somehow gets even faster, booming with a mix of elation and horror.
She spoke to me, which means I’m probably expected to speak back. I drop my smile and open my mouth, but all that comes out is a squeak.
The disaster alert gets even louder. I press my lips together for a second and clear my throat.
Cassidy’s courteous smile falters as her attention shifts from me to my sewing machine before focusing back on my face.
“Are you, um, all good there?”
I blink. “Huh?”
“Your seam. It’s, uh…”
She points at my swath of the linen, and it’s only then that I realize I’ve still been sewing this entire time.
I jerk my foot off the pedal like I’ve been burnt as I turn back to my work, but it’s too late. A wonky line of stitching swoops and swirls all over the fabric like some kind of Frankenstein monstrosity.
“Oh shit!” I yelp before I can stop myself. “Oh, crap, no. No, no, no. Not the linen.”
I flip the machine’s foot up to free the fabric and yank it towards me, like that will somehow undo the disaster. Instead, the force of my yank just sends the spool of thread that’s still connected to the linen flying off the machine. The spool bounces to the floor, trailing a long string of thread in its wake. When I lean over to flail for it before it can roll away, I end up knocking my box of pins over the edge of the table.
The whole class turns to stare as the din of a hundred or so pins scattering across the tiles rings out loud enough to be heard over the hum of the few sewing machines running.
Cassidy gasps. I look up from the destruction and find her with a hand clamped over her mouth and her eyebrows shooting up.
I can’t tell if she’s holding back a laugh. I wouldn’t blame her if she was; I’m somewhere between sobbing and maniacally cackling myself.
“Oh my god, let me help you,” she says once the rest of the room has gone back to waiting for class to start.
“Oh, no, that’s okay,” I mumble as I slide off my chair, dumping the load of linen off my lap and onto the table. “I’ll get them.”
I crouch down and start herding the pins into a pile, ignoring the occasional prick to my fingertips.
All I want is for this interaction to be over before I can do any more damage—and maybe for the floor to open up and swallow me along with the pins and my ruined medieval under-dress.
This is why I can’t get a girlfriend.
I’m halfway through the third year of my ‘Date At Least One Girl Before the End of College’ pact with myself, and a box of spilt pins is one of the least embarrassing things that’s happened in my quest to go out with a woman.
When it becomes clear I’m not going to give her an opportunity to help, Cassidy goes back to talking with her friend while we all wait for our instructor to show up. It takes me a couple minutes to get the pins deposited in their little plastic box, and another couple minutes to cut the threads dangling from my linen and get the spool back in place on my machine. My hands are shaking so hard I have to try five times before I can get the needle threaded.
“Finally,” I mutter under my breath, succeeding just in time to look up and see my best friend Kate walk into the room.
She’s the last student to show up today, as usual. 9AM classes don’t exactly jam with her night owl soul. I woke up this morning to find a handful of Instagram memes she sent me at a quarter to three.
Her dark hair is falling out of the lopsided bun she must have pulled it into on her way out the door after hitting snooze on her third alarm, but even with purple hollows under her eyes and a death grip on a huge black coffee that tells everyone not to mess with her, I can feel the shift in the room as she makes her way up the aisle toward me.
Conversations pause. Scissors freeze mid-snip. Heads lift up from where they’re bent over cell phones or textbooks. For a few seconds, the aisle is Kate’s personal runway as her combat boots squeak on the tiles and the fluorescent tube lights overhead try and fail to paint her with an unflattering glare.
Here comes Hurricane Kate.
She always makes a face when I call her that, but there’s no better way to describe the effect she has on people. Unlike the elf-like grace of Cassidy Kowalski, Kate Davidson has this swagger that inspires a mix of fear, admiration, and desire in all who witness her. I swear her Big Bi Energy causes at least a dozen people to question their sexuality every time she steps out in public.
I was already thoroughly convinced I was a lesbian before I met Kate, and it’s not like I would have said no had she shown any interest. Given the fact that I’ve been out since I was seventeen and still have yet to get my first girlfriend, there aren’t many girls I’d say no to a date with. Still, I’m not so desperate that I can’t admit Kate’s not really my type.
I’m looking for my princess—for a girl whose hair I can brush before bed and bring breakfast to in the morning, who sends me texts with little flower and heart emojis at the end, who will let me hold her hand between mine and blow on her fingers when they’re cold in the winter.
Kate would probably bite anyone who tried to do that. Since the day I met her at the same orientation lunch where I first saw Cassidy, she’s insisted the last thing she’s looking for in life is a relationship.
“God, these morning classes are going to kill me,” she says with a groan as she drops her battered Jansport to the floor and sets her coffee next to my pile of disgraced linen.
“You say that every week,” I tell her. “We’re, like, a month into the term.”
“Ugh, has it only been a month? I feel like I’ve been sleep-deprived forever.”
I laugh. “I feel like you’ve been sleep-deprived since infancy. Why were you on Instagram at three in the morning?”
She shrugs under her lumberjack-esque flannel jacket. Despite us being a week into February, she’s wearing a bustier-style crop top underneath the jacket, a sliver of toned stomach muscles showing between the edge of the shirt and the high-rise waist of her boyfriend jeans.
I drag my eyes away from the hint of her skin before I start staring. Even I get a little breathless around her every now and then, but I’m sure that happens to everyone with an extremely attractive best friend.
“What else would I be doing at three in the morning?”
I give her a look. “Um, sleeping?”
“Mehhh.” She shrugs again before glancing past me across the aisle and bouncing her eyebrows up and down a few times. “I take it you’ve seen who’s sitting next to us?”
The suggestive note in her voice just makes the residual embarrassment hit even harder as my face starts to get hot again.
“Shhh,” I hiss.
Kate scoots her chair a little closer to mine and props an elbow on the table, dropping her voice to ask, “Well? Did you at least take the opportunity to say hi?”
I shift around so my back is to Cassidy, motioning for Kate to be quieter.
“Actually, she said hi to me.” I don’t give Kate’s shocked expression time to shift into a grin before I grab the wad of linen and slide it closer to her. “Right before she pointed out I was doing this while blatantly staring at her.”
It takes Kate a couple seconds to get the linen spread out enough to see what I’ve done. As soon as the chaotic excuse for a seam is revealed, she tips her head back and doesn’t bother to tone down her roar of laughter.
“Oh my god, Allison,” she chokes out. “You’re kidding me.”
“Shhh!” I hiss again before whispering, “I really wish I was.”
Kate lets out a final snort and reaches over to pat me on the back. “It’s okay. It could have been worse.”
“Oh, worse like sending my spool of thread flying after I ripped the fabric out of the machine in panic and also spilt an entire box of pins all over the floor?”
Kate’s eyes widen. “No. Really?”
I do my best to put on a resigned face. “Are you actually surprised? This is me we’re talking about.”
Kate slides her hand up my back to sling her arm around my shoulders. “I love you, you dork. You’re adorable.”
“If only that was—” I catch myself before I risk saying Cassidy’s name. “If only that was her reaction too. Why are you the only person who finds my failed flirting cute? If just one girl thought I was as adorable as you do, I wouldn’t be the only person in history to go through college without having at least one relationship.”
Kate tilts her head.
“Okay, fine, that’s an exaggeration,” I amend, “but this is our second to last year in the program, and I want a freaking girlfriend, Kate. Is that so much to ask of the universe?”
She gives my shoulder a squeeze before moving her chair back to its usual spot. “Methinks you’re asking the wrong person, m’lady.”
Kate’s never been able to sympathize with my ‘get a girlfriend before the end of college’ objective, no matter how much time she spends listening to me lament about it.
“Ugh, your sexual devastation skills are wasted on you.”
She snorts again. “Excuse me, my what?”
“You could literally get any person you want to date you without even lifting a finger.”
Her posture stiffens, and she drops her gaze to the tabletop as she spends a few seconds sipping her coffee.
“I don’t know about that,” she mutters when she sets the cup down.
I fight the urge to roll my eyes. We’ve had this conversation before. I swear sometimes it’s like she doesn’t even realize what happens when she walks into a room.
“Kate, come on. You’re freaking Hurricane Kate. You’re like half the population’s badass dream girl. Maybe you should give me lessons or something. I would love to be noticed for something other than that.” I point at the crooked seam and laugh, but Kate just lets out a short chuckle before taking another sip of her coffee.
I cut her off before she can try to give me a lecture about what an awesome girlfriend I would be. The problem isn’t actually being someone’s girlfriend. I know I would be amazing at that. The problem is actually being able to speak to women and avoid knocking things over long enough to show them I’m interested.
“Maybe you really should give me lessons. I know you’re not into the whole dating thing, but you can get anyone you want to hook up with you, and if I could just—”
“I’m not hooking up at all this semester, remember?”
I pause and bob my head, my thoughts going a mile a minute as I play the idea out in my mind.
It’s not such a bad strategy. I’ve always felt like being overshadowed by Kate was a point against me, but maybe I’ve been ignoring the benefits of being best friends with a weapon of mass sexual destruction.
“Right, yeah, your semester of self-imposed celibacy. That’s actually perfect. What if instead of finding hook-ups at bars, you help me find girls there instead? Doesn’t that sound like a great distraction?”
She chuckles again and then squints at me when I don’t join in. “Oh my god, you’re not actually serious, are you?”
“Well, I just thought of it now, but—”
Our conversation gets interrupted when the door swings open and the whole class quiets as our instructor comes swanning into the room.
Jillian Lee is wearing a grey cowl-neck shirt, wide-leg black trousers with a high waist, and a thick black vinyl belt featuring an oversized silver clasp. She looks like an absolute icon—which she is. Jillian Lee has worked in costume design at several major opera houses and some of the biggest ballet companies in the world. I’m hoping to end up in film and television myself, but I remember getting goose bumps back when I first looked into the costume design program and realized I could have the chance to learn from legends like Jillian Lee.
She’s been teaching me for over two years now, and I still can’t call her just Jillian like she asks us to. The most informal thing I can manage is Ms. Jillian, which always makes her laugh.
“Good morning, class,” she calls out as we all sit up straight and greet her in return. “Since so many of you seem to be working already, I’ll skip the morning pep talk and head straight into doing my rounds. Let’s sew, people!”
She claps her hands twice, and all thirty of us get down to business. I push any thoughts of flirting lessons aside for now.
Sewing time is sacred.
I reach for my devastated piece of linen and then hunt through my sewing kit until I find my seam ripper. I spare a second to glance at Kate before I start pulling threads out.
She meets my eye and grins. I know she feels exactly the same way I do: like the start of our sewing time has wiped everything else away. The next hour stretches out in front of us like a clean, crisp bolt of fabric ready to get cut and shaped into whatever our minds can dream up.
It doesn’t matter that I made an idiot of myself just ten minutes ago. It doesn’t matter that I suck at flirting while my best friend seems to make people go crazy for her without even needing to flirt at all. It doesn’t matter that I’ve wanted a relationship for years and haven’t even managed a proper date yet.
For now, the rest of my life doesn’t matter at all, because with a handful of thread and fabric, I can create any reality I want.
Grab your copy here!